LAHORE: The opposition and officials within the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) are up in arms over the government’s third amendment to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).
Via the amendment, Prime Minister Imran Khan-led federal government has taken back the powers to remove the NAB chairman from the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). It has instead authorised and empowered the president to remove the watchdog‘s chief.
Interestingly, the NAO (Third Amendment) Ordinance 2021, promulgated on October 31, has been implemented immediately. While the amendments have been deemed to take effect from October 6, when the second amendment was promulgated.
Opposition lambasts third amendment
Speaking to Bol News, Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) Senior Vice-President Senator Sherry Rehman claimed that the amendment was “new evidence” that showed the federal government’s dishonesty.
Rehman said that opposition parties have not been asking for relief but seek justice.
“Asif Ali Zardari never asked for relief from dictators, what misunderstanding did this destructive government (Tabahi Sarkar) have in its mind?” she asked.
The PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate alleged that the last ordinance was introduced to give relief to the federal government and the new one has been introduced to target the opposition.
She wondered why NAB was silent on the corruption and fraud cases of the incumbent government.
“Does NAB arrest anyone for the BRT, billion tree scandal, sugar scandal, LNG and other cases?” the senator asked. She claimed that PM Imran Khan, his cabinet and friends enjoy immunity from NAB.
“This federal government is not on the same page with security institutions in fact they are on the same page with NAB,” Sherry concluded.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif termed the third amendment an NRO.
“PM Imran Khan has given an NRO to himself by introducing the new NAB ordinance,” said the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.
However, a senior Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader told Bol News that the government introduced the third amendment as some quarters were misinterpreting the provisions mentioned in the last amendment.
Sources within the NAB told Bol News that the introduction of the amendment has “seriously compromised” the independence of the chairman’s office. They added that the independence was compromised as the government has empowered the president to remove the NAB chief on the advice of the prime minister.
“Now the sword would be hanging on the head of every NAB chairman as he/she could be removed by the president just with a stroke of a pen. Don’t you think that they will be under pressure while making decisions independently as he/she will be reluctant to take any decision which may invite the wrath of the president or premier?” asked an official.
Officials are of the view that the office of NAB chairman which was misused earlier without any legal means by successive rulers for political engineering and personal gains would be further compromised with the new provision.
The previous ordinance which was issued about a month ago had empowered the Supreme Judicial Council to remove the NAB chairman on the same footings as the removal of a Supreme Court judge.
“But this new ordinance (third amendment) had named ‘president’ as the person who could remove the chairman NAB and according to the constitution of Pakistan the president performs his functions on the advice of the prime minister, so practically, the premier would now be in a driving seat to remove the chairman NAB,” independent sources told Bol News.